As the singer for R.E.M., Michael Stipe made musical history by helping to establish the indie underground scene in 1980s America and, later, by bringing alternative rock to the mainstream. Born John Michael Stipe in Decatur, Georgia, he grew up as an Army brat, moving around a lot. But when he was going to college in Athens, he had a fateful meeting with guitarist Peter Buck, and along with drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills, they formed R.E.M. in 1980. Around the same time, Stipe's sister Lynda became a member of another Athens band, Oh-OK. Soon both groups were at the core of the town's booming indie rock scene, which would shortly gain national attention. R.E.M. released their first single, "Radio Free Europe," the following year, and with their celebrated '83 debut LP, Murmur, they were hailed as one of the bright lights of the underground. Over the next few years, the band became kings of the indie rock hill, but late '80s albums like Document and Green crossed R.E.M. (and alternative rock) to massive success and mainstream acceptance. 1991's Out of Time was the apex of the band's commercial success, turning them into full-on arena-filling superstars. Throughout it all, Stipe remained skeptical of fame's trappings, maintaining his underdog perspective despite his celebrity. When he wasn't working with the band, he made myriad guest appearances, singing on records by Robyn Hitchcock, Billy Bragg, Neneh Cherry, Syd Straw, and countless others. He occasionally produced other artists as well, including Hugo Largo, Vic Chesnutt, and Magnapop. Though initially private about his sexuality, Stipe eventually came out as bisexual. R.E.M. split in 2011, but until he posted a song on Instagram in March of 2018 in support of the anti-gun March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., he never released any actual solo material. But even that track disappeared when Stipe deleted his Instagram account as a political statement later that year.